Sunday, April 5, 2015

An Easter Promise: The Empty Tomb

My homily from the Easter Vigil 2015

When I went to college, I was blessed to have a wonderful second hand car to take with me to school. On one occasion, feeling a bit guilty at having such a benefit, I loaned my car to a friend who wanted to take a new girlfriend to dinner. He got into a small fender bender. As the car was in my dad's name, I had to tell him. I told him the truth of what happened and he did not doubt me. He said he knew me and believed that I would feel that way, do what I did, and not lie to him.

This night we are told the story of God's work in salvation history: creation, covenant, freedom from slavery, and hope by prophetic message. The story ends with Mark's account of the Gospel. The tomb was empty and they went and told no one. Wait...told no one? Yes. This is the actual ending of Mark's Gospel account.

We are left simply with the empty tomb and asked, rather challenged to believe. Having heard all that Jesus did, hearing all that God accomplished, and having the covenant and promises of God revealed, we are left with an empty tomb ans you believe? Do you trust that God is, and always has been, truthful to us? Then what does the empty tomb mean? That God has raised Jesus from the dead and given life to those in the grave and all believers for all time. God has conquered sin and death and given us hope for all ages.

In a moment we will be asked to affirm our yes to this promise of God in the new waters of Easter. We will then be asked to go out and live a life of Easter joy for and with others. Let us go knowing our God and that he would not lie to us for he has the words of everlasting life!

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! Alleluia!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Thursday Homily: Grain and Grape Crushed

When I was teaching Theology some year back, a course on Christian Justice, we read a story about the power of a snowflake. During a snow storm, snow began to accumulate on a tree branch. Each snow flake nearly weightless fell on the branch. Eventually, the culmination of the many, many snowflakes brought down the sturdy tree branch. No one snowflake could know that it would be the one to tip the balance, but they all did their part together.

Tonight we gather to celebrate the mystery of the passion memorialized and lived in the Eucharist. The Eucharistic elements of bread and wine, St. Augustine comments, are the image of the Church. The bread we use that becomes the Lord’s own body is made up of many, many grains and the cup of wine, made up of many, many grapes. But first, these grains need to be crushed. They need to die to themselves to yield something more, something greater, the body of the Lord. The grapes, too, must first be crushed, many of them at a time to yield the wine which is his blood.

Thus, our first image and lesson from tonight is we must each be willing to be crushed for something greater. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves to be the Body of Christ. We must be willing to be less significant on our own, but something greater together in the community of the Church given shape at this meal.

Second, for what is this something greater? Our Lord answers this, as well... love. “Do you know what I do for you? Then you must do this for each other.” We sacrifice ourselves, unite our desires, and become the very Body of Christ in and for love. Our sacrifice becomes a power beyond understanding, a power to transform, a power to give life. Jesus’ being crushed finds ultimate power in the uniting with his Body in the world, to transform all of creation in the new life of the resurrection.

Like the snowflakes, we can not know the power individually we can assert until we are united together to bring down a mighty branch. But first, like Christ we much be willing to be crushed, serve others first, forgive in mercy, and then be untied in the love and power of the resurrected Body of the Lord.